With Christopher Nolan’s take on DC’s Caped Crusader finally coming to a close, many fans are finding it hard to let go. With hints of Batman’s future fiendishly laid in the final moments of Nolan’s epic conclusion; as well as a brand new re-boot supposedly on the cards; who would you have liked to have seen given the realistic Nolan-verse treatment?
Nolan had a wonderful knack for giving crazy comic book villains with ridiculous dress sense a home in the real world of his gritty, gory Gotham; and doing it in a way that not only appealed to new audiences, but even pleased old ones. We at Chaos Hour have created our run-down of the bad guys and gals that could happily have been added into Batman’s newest Universe.
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10. Victor Zsasz
Whilst not a well known enough villain to hold his own as the antagonist for a full film, Victor Zsasz would be an interesting side story for Commissioner Gordon or the newest edition to the Nolan Batman franchise, Detective John Blake. A serial killer who ‘relieves’ his victims from their existence before marking his body with a tally mark to show the number of his victims, Zsasz is already well grounded in the gritty world which Nolan has so masterfully created.
Perhaps as a sideline to a more well known character or even just an inmate in the Arkham Asylum style sequel I have dreamed up in my wishful mind (see my Dark Knight Rises: Hopes For The Future article), Zsasz would play an interesting role as serial killers have not been dealt with as yet in Nolan’s franchise. It would be easy enough to pad his character out with Seven-style morality over human kind, as Zsasz always stated that he was ‘realiving’ his victims of their meaningless exiestence. It would be a good way to comment on the meaninglessness of wealth and power as well if he perhaps targeted inheritance millionaires who did nothing with their lives other than spend their parents’ money, a good way to link him to Bruce Wayne in some way. Even if they only showed such a character escaping and having a one on one battle with the police or Batman, the scars as well as his chilling character would be enough to send hardcore Bat-Fans reeling with happiness. Whilst Victor has already made an appearance in Batman Begins through a subtle cameo, it would be nice to see such a character take his freedom and cause a little chaos.
9. Professor Hugo Strange
While Dr Hugo Strange’s legacy has already been established in Nolan’s Gotham through his use of the Scarecrow’s fear gas (a possible homage to the serum which Strange develops which turns his victims into mindless zombies), his character would be an ideal villain for Nolan to have taken on. Harking back to the style of Batman Begins’ ‘Scarecrow’ rather than the even grittier adversaries of the Dark Knight films, he would have been able to take a step into the psychological with Hugo Strange rather than the physical step he took with Bane.
Dr Strange’s serum, which causes the victim to perform the Doctor’s deranged will, would have been an ideal background for a psychological action thriller a la The Thing. Imagine if Batma was truly alone and didn’t know who to trust? Yes, he is always pretty much in that state of mind, but what if Lucius Fox, Commissioner Gordon and yes, even Alfred, could be compromised. He would be forced to fight the ones he knows and loves in order to find an antidote. If Strange was able to figure out who Batman truly was, he would also be able to infiltrate his life from the inside out, causing his wealth to be lost, his world destroyed. Heck! What is the serum actually gave him control over Batman himself? Causing him to become the villain he has for so long fought against?
8. The Penguin
Now, a lot of you will probably be screaming at your monitors right now. What could Nolan possibly do with an umbrella wielding man with a penchant for flightless, snow loving birds? But this image is clouded by Tim Burton’s fantastical image of Danny Devito’s deformed gentleman raised by sewer dwelling circus performers. When Penguin was first created, he was in fact a mob boss with a string of night clubs and a fascination with birds. And, hey, if Wee-Bay can keep fish, what’s wrong with a couple of budgies?
Another character who would probably not function well as a lead antagonist due to him being a mobster rather than a terrorizing force, Penguin would probably best be suited to a role such as that of Falcone. Nicknamed the Penguin for his rotund appearance, he would probably not suit a life of action packed crime, but more of a boss role to the other crime lords or gangs fighting against Batman.
There have been several incarnations of Clayface over the years, ranging from Basil Karlo’s jealous actor who developed the power to change his face after his first encounter with Batman and Robin, to Matt Hagen, who developed his powers the Spidey way - after being exposed to radioactive protoplasm. Such an outlandish character as one who can change his face and body shape at will, maybe a bit far fetched for the Nolan-verse; but what if Clayface was the name of master of disguise?
Preston Payne would most likely be the best form for Clayface to take in the realistic world of Christopher Nolan’s Gotham. Perhaps a research chemist working at one of Wayne Industries labs, who is made redundant when their company sees financial hardship? Perhaps he decides to use his research into synthetic skin or facial transplants to become a master criminal, with no way to identify him due to his ability to change his identity (Think the facial changing technology of the Mission Impossible movies). Or maybe he is a hacker with many online identities, simply a faceless computer villain with the ability to use other people’s identities to his own means. Either way you would have a realistic villain who would highlight a very important aspect to Nolan’s Batman series, the importance of identity. It would also allow him to play with the political and modern themes of identity theft and personal privacy.
6. Harley Quinn
Many hardcore comic fans would get annoyed at my inclusion of Dr Harley Quinzell on this list, mostly due to her having been created for a TV series, rather than the comics (but nonetheless creating a huge and well deserved fan following over her 20 year existence) but also because of her over zealous, crazy, far-too-large-for-the-Nolan-verse personality. But if he can handle the Joker, he can handle anything. Having spread his villainess wings with Catwoman, it would be nice to see a female antagonist in the limelight against the Bat; especially one who would potentially work alongside the Joker or be there to exact his revenge.
Whether you love Harley or you hate her, her backstory is brilliantly coined. A psychiatrist in Arkham Asylum, she is assigned to oversee the Joker’s treatment and, during this time, she falls madly (literally madly) in love with him. With the Joker’s flare for the theatrical as well as his charisma and manipulative mind, she is soon entranced by his views on life and becomes his loyal second in command. A fitting story for a good, realistic grounding - Lima Syndrome (the inverse of Stockholm Syndrome, as technically Harley would be the Joker’s captor as his psychiatrist). Add to this a woman driven mad by the horrific acts of violence her new found lover performs and you have a less over zealous, crazy, far-too-large-for-the-Nolan-verse personality and more of an interesting Badlands/Natural Born Killers style partnership which would be very fun to explore.
5. Calender Man/Holiday
Julian Gregroy Day (word play on the Julian and Gregorian calenders) is a criminal obsessed with dates and calenders (with a name like that, who wouldn’t be?) who performs his ridiculous crimes based around national holidays and important dates. However, his most menacing performance to date would be his appearance in The Long Halloween, where he helps Batman catch a serial killer who uses the holidays to mark his crimes. The reason I have put both villains in this entry is that in order to make Calender Man a more formidable Nolan-esque villain, he would have to evolve into Holiday himself; replacing petty crimes with serial killer style murders - how else could he hold his own against a Batman trained by Liam Neeson?
The great thing about Calender Man/Holiday is that, as a director/writer, you can interpret his obsession with days of the year in any way you’d like. You may choose to have a serial killer based on the holiday seasons, making the film and his crimes last a year and fantastically themed around said holidays. Or you could have him starting on a particular period of importance. Perhaps Calender man has existed for year, always killing on one day of the year so not to be noticed. Maybe it only comes to light when he discovers Bruce Wayne’s identity and begins killing a couple every year on the anniversary of his parents’ death. Or, maybe he is a terrorist, offering to kill one citizen every day until his demands are met. This is one that Nolan could have had a lot of fun with interpreting.
4. Mr Freeze
Another unlikely addition to the list, especially after Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 1997 waltz with the blue skinned doctor. Dr Victor Fries (Seriously, why have your villain alter-ego be a mister? Dr. Freeze sounds so much cooler - pun definitely intended) has had many back stories over the years, but surprisingly the one that has stuck with people is the very one which takes place in one of the most detested of Batman movies (Batman & Robin). Driven by purer motives than most of his villainous compatriots, Dr. Fries is working for love rather than a political, anarchical or ethical motive.
As tends to be my basis for a few of these entries, much could be done with a downfall or downsizing of Wayne Enterprises. Perhaps Freeze’s budget is cut and his cryogenic lab and experimentation cut off, leading to the death of his cryogenically frozen wife and his eventual madness and taste for revenge. It’s simple enough, but it’s only the outlandish gear and clothing which seem to stand in the way of making Mr. Freeze a perfect Nolan enemy. Maybe he wants to bring about a nuclear winter? Killing himself in his lovesick state and all of those who caused his wife’s death in the first place (namely Gotham and Wayne Enterprises). When the motives are love and loss, criminal insanity always seems a little bit easier to understand.
3. Poison Ivy
Since Joel Schumacher’s second foray into Gotham, Pamela Isley has garnered a bad name for herself when it comes to realism. I mean, a woman who can talk to and manipulate plants doesn’t really seem an obvious choice for a realistic Gotham incarnation. But how about an eco-terrorist?
Perhaps Wayne Enterprises is found to be cutting down rainforests or polluting the environment in some Eden of the world? Enter Pamela Lillian Isley, a seductive campaigner for justice, attempting to seduce Bruce Wayne in order to gain access to Wayne Enterprises and ultimately destroy it from the inside. Not only would this create a love/sexual interest for Batman but it would deal with those modern, political issues that Nolan loves so much. Maybe she is Greenpeace gone bad - attempting to cleanse the cities of the world with poisonous gases and let nature take its course. Of course you could always add in that she is a little nuts and believes she can talk to plants, but there’s not much course to when her character is surprisingly adaptable to a realistic setting.
Dr. Thomas Elliot, childhood friend of Bruce Wayne, was also born into wealth and holds a strategic, logical mind capable of rivaling the caped detective. Yet, unlike Bruce, ‘Tommy’ hated his parents and actually attempted to kill them both by severing the breaks on their car. Unfortunately for him, his mother survived the accident due to emergency surgery performed by Thomas Wayne. Tommy always resented Bruce for this and his hatred for his mother drove him to madness. Her later disowning of him didn’t help and after her death he decided to use her money to travel the world (much-like Bruce) and eventually become a surgeon.
The great thing about Hush’s back story is how realistic and grounded it is in comparison to so many other villain’s backgrounds. This makes him a perfect candidate for the Nolan treatment. Not much would have to be altered to Hush’s story, besides perhaps The Riddler’s involvement in his eventual discovery of Batman’s identity. Unless of course he were partnered in a film alongside the Riddler. However, as his hatred of Bruce is different to most enemies hatred of Batman, it would bring a much more personal level to the story. As Hush would be after Bruce, rather than Batman, all of his allies would be at risk; Alfred, Lucius and any love interest Bruce had at that particular time. It would make a nice narrative change to having Bruce personally targeted and at risk.
1. The Riddler
This man is the pinnacle of what Nolan’s Batman could have achieved. But even Nolan has said that if he had kept on making Batman films, he would never stop. At first thought, the idea of The Riddler may seem ludicrous, due to his spandex, bowler hat, cane wielding days of the past. But take a gander and the Joker’s and Bane’s wardrobes and then tell me that. The Riddler had the possibility of becoming a psychological enemy that no other superhero in a superhero film had faced, one penned and created by the mastermind behind Inception and Memento.
The brilliant thing about The Riddler is the mind boggling thought that could be put into his crimes and scenarios. Here is a man who does not commit crimes for the thrill of the crime, but to watch as his adversaries try to get around the art of his riddles and creations. Imagine a serial killer so proud of his work that he creates sick and convoluted scenarios for his victims, a riddle to solve in order to survive (a la Saw)? Or just a riddle surrounding their death (a la Seven)? Of course he wouldn’t have to be a killer for his riddles to be formidable enough for Batman. What if Batman were trapped in some insane game of cat and mouse that the Riddler had concocted, with the only way he could survive being his detective and logical abilities rather than his strength. This would bring the Bat back to his initial roots of detective work but also create a unique superhero film focusing on the mind rather than strength. A gamble for a film maker now known for his adrenalin filled films, but a wonderful homage to his roots.
Do you have any suggestions for who you would have liked to see in Nolan’s Batman Universe? Or a better idea of how they could have been realistically included? Why not suggest them on our Facebook page and join the discussion?
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